Shaping the Online Education Agenda in 2014: Tom Vander Ark Weighs In


Thursday, January 2, 2014 - 1:00am

Even though educators are deep in the middle of their academic year, the end of the calendar year is still a good time to reflect on the year just past and what the coming year might look like.  For Learning Outside the Lines guest contributor, Tom Vander Ark, 2014 is shaping up to be the year of the tablet and students bringing their own devices into the classroom.  These two trends will extend the reach and impact of online and blended learning programs.   The continued movement toward making blended and online learning mainstream will then enable greater personalization of education and learning plans, which will enhance student outcomes.  Of course, we all have a wish list of things we hope will come to pass in the coming year and Tom is no different. On the top of his list is, of course, funding followed in short order by the reauthorization of the federal education policy.

How do you think 2014 will shape up for educators and students?  What’s on the top of your wish list?  Share your thoughts below.

Here’s the complete list of Tom’s 14 Developments to Watch for in 2014

It’s been a big year for innovations in learning. If 2012 was the year of the MOOC, 2013 was the year blended learning went mainstream—even schools that were just layering tabs on top of an obsolete model called it “blended.” The following are 10 developments to watch for in 2014:

1. Expectations. Schools will continue coming to terms with different and higher expectations to be college and career ready. In addition to new English and math standards, many districts and networks will update their goals for Deeper Learning outcomes and will consider learning experiences that build academic mindset.

2. Assessments. There will be an odd assortment of old and new assessments in many districts in 2014 as states come to terms with new expectations. PARCC and Smarter Balanced are facing capable competition from vendors that can deliver cheaper tests.

Rapid adoption of adaptive instructional systems (e.g., i-ReadyDreamboxCompass/NWEA, Reasoning Mind) will continue—combining frequent Common Core aligned assessment with targeted tutoring.

3. Funding. The stock market is at record highs and real estate is back to 2008 levels but, “We’re not looking at any tide of rising revenues in the near future,” said Rhode Island Commissioner Deborah Gist—and that will be the case in many states.

Like Ohio’s Straight A Fund, we may see a couple more states make one-time investments in innovation and sustainability. New standards, interest in personalization, and tight budgets will continue to drive interest in new school models and staffing patterns. For more, download our free ebook, Navigating the Shift to Digital Learning.

4. OER. Tight budgets and the shift to digital learning will continue to drive interest in open education resources (OER). Philanthropic investments continue to drive innovation at CK12Khan AcademyPowerMyLearning,and Gooru. In 2014 more high schools will incorporate MOOCs, open courses and modules (e.g.,,

5. Tabs. IDC reports that about 221 million tabs were sold in 2013, up 54% from last year. Tabs are displacing PCs in the roughly $5 billion school device category. Apple is selling more than 1 million tablets a quarter to schools. Like Anne Wujcik, “It’s not that I’m anti-tablet. It’s more a matter of being pro-planning.” Check out the Blended Learning Implementation Guide and plan before you buy those tablets.

6. BYOD. Mobile penetration became so ubiquitous that the bring-your-own-device wave will become the norm in 2014. Some schools serving affluent families will use BYOD as a primary access device strategy; most public schools will use it to supplement purchased equipment to ensure equitable access.

7. Online. I’m guessing that online learning is still growing by about 50% annually… but data collection is so bad, it’s really hard to tell. About 3 million American students took at least one online class last school year—it will probably be 5 million during the 2013-14 school year. Most districts report that they are offering or planning to offer online courses. (Watch for a January paper outlining options.) A handful of states will emulate Louisiana Course Choice and expand statewide part-time options.

8. Branding. I think Matthew Lynch is right , we’ll see more schools and programs responding to the increased array of options by paying more attention to branding, marketing, and social media.

9. Blends. Grant programs like Next Generation Learning Challenges are promoting more innovative blended learning models. In 2012, there were a few dozen interesting blends, in 2013 there were a few hundred, in 2014 there will be thousands of schools with productive and interesting blends.

10. Platforms. Learning platforms will slowly get better in 2014 with LMS adding social features and the ability to host open and teacher developed content. Schools will continue to ditch their servers and adopt cloud-based platforms. While still five years behind where they should be, platform progress is being made on 10 vectors.

Not in ’14: You won’t see a reauthorization of federal education policy—an ongoing act of criminal neglect by a deadlocked Congress. Our kids deserve better.

To read more, go to EdWeek’s blog and get the full list of 14 Developments to Watch for in 2014


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